In 2018/19, over 350,000 hospital admissions in the UK were directly related to alcohol use.1 This number is 6 percent higher than the previous year. Alcohol is relatively safe in moderation, but when a person drinks in excess, serious health and interpersonal issues can arise.

Giving up alcohol can be challenging, but there are a whole range of benefits to quitting that can make the separation between you and your alcohol use feel less difficult and even highly rewarding. Here will explore some of the benefits you can expect to reap when you stop drinking.

Alcohol use is commonplace in society. It is extremely common at celebrations – from birthdays to weddings to funerals. Alcohol use is normalised across many cultures, yet even though it is not harmful in moderation, it can also be problematic when used to excess.

Why do People become Addicted to Alcohol?

Some are more prone to alcohol addiction than others, with factors like one’s family history, a history of mental illness, and environmental factors all playing a role.2 Alcohol, like all substances, is used by some people as a coping mechanism to mask uncomfortable or distressing feelings. An addiction is characterised by powerful cravings, which can affect their feelings and behaviours.3 A person might want to give up alcohol, fully aware of the problems that it can cause or has been causing, yet due to the nature of addiction and these cravings, initial attempts to quit do not work and the person continues to drink. This is often to the detriment of their physical and psychological health and their social and financial well-being.

If you are struggling with addiction to alcohol and need some extra motivation to begin your recovery journey, consider the following benefits of giving up alcohol, which range from better sleep to better physical health to a reduced risk of physical and psychological disease.

The Benefits of Quitting Alcohol

Improved Sleeping Pattern

One week after quitting, you can expect an improved sleeping pattern. There is a strong link between alcohol abuse and poor sleep. When you drink regularly, it becomes more difficult to fall and stay asleep, because alcohol disrupts your normal sleep-wake cycle.4

In the early stages of recovery sleep may still be an issue, as the body is trying to adjust to life without alcohol. However, the longer you abstain and adhere to a healthy sleep schedule you will notice big improvements in the quality of your sleep.

Improved Mental Health

Alcohol addiction often co-occurs with other mental health issues and illnesses, such as5:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Schizophrenia

The symptoms of the above conditions can be overwhelming, leading some people to self-medicate with substances, such as alcohol. Self-medication is dangerous as it can lead to dependency and addiction. It is also known that alcohol exacerbates mental illness. This means that when you quit drinking, you give your mental health a chance to improve.

When in recovery, clients are guided in setting sobriety goals. If alcohol has been negatively impacting your life and you make the brave effort to begin the recovery journey, achieving these sobriety goals no matter how big or small is a success and can boost your mental well-being.

Better Nutrition

Malnourishment is common among those who abuse alcohol.6 Drinking in excess leads to a depletion of the body’s vital nutrients. The way the body digests, stores, uses, and excretes nutrients is impacted by alcohol, meaning that the bodies of those who abuse often do not get enough nutrients for proper, healthy bodily function.

When you stop drinking, your appetite will soon return and now that alcohol is not constantly in your system, your body is a better position to absorb and effectively utilize important nutrients. In combination with exercise, a healthier diet is a powerful support on the recovery journey.

Improved Cognition

Abuse of alcohol causes the hippocampus – the learning and memory centre of the brain – to shrink.7 When you give up alcohol, one of the longer-term benefits is that your cognition improves. Between several months and one year after quitting, positive structural changes in the brain can take place. Quitting also allows for a reversal of the negative consequences of alcohol abuse on memory, attention, problem-solving, and other thinking skills.

Reduced Risk of Disease

Alcohol is a carcinogen8, a substance that promotes carcinogenesis (the formation of cancer). According to Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), excessive alcohol consumption increases your risk of developing a number of different types of cancer, such as:

  • Liver cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Throat cancer
  • Colon cancer

Quitting alcohol also reduces your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Much scientific research has found that alcohol and heart issues are closely linked. Alcohol abuse has been found to lead to:

  • Heart failure
  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Myocardial infarction
  • Ischemic stroke
  • Haemorrhagic stroke

Improved Appearance

When you quit alcohol, your skin health improves. This is partly due to the fact alcohol abuse leads to diminished hydration, which affects your skin. Dehydration also leads to fatigue and an aged appearance, After quitting, the body is better able to stay hydrated, meaning that your skin, energy levels, and overall health can improve.

Alcohol Addiction Recovery

Alcohol addiction is not a life sentence. It can have a devastating impact on individuals and their families, but it is treatable. Many people can and do recover. At Addcounsel, we are a dedicated team of addiction recovery specialists, able to offer comprehensive and completely anonymous alcohol addiction treatment at one of our luxury rehab centres in London. Treatment involves a medically supervised detoxification programme, medical supervision throughout the alcohol withdrawal stage, and various psychotherapies offered in both inpatient (residential) and outpatient settings.

1 NHS Digital. 2020. Statistics On Alcohol, England 2020 – NHS Digital. [online] Available at: <https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/statistics-on-alcohol/2020> [Accessed 26 October 2020].

2 Gilbertson, Rebecca et al. “The role of selected factors in the development and consequences of alcohol dependence.” Alcohol research & health : the journal of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism vol. 31,4 (2008): 389-99.

3 Morck, C., Kappel, N. and Martinsen, B., 2020. The Lived Experience of Alcohol Dependence: A Reflective Lifeworld Research among Outpatients in Alcohol Treatment. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 41(5), pp.421-428.

4 Perney, P. and Lehert, P., 2018. Insomnia in Alcohol-Dependent Patients: Prevalence, Risk Factors and Acamprosate Effect: An Individual Patient Data Meta-Analysis. Alcohol and Alcoholism, 53(5), pp.611-618.

5 Petrakis, I., Gonzalez, G., Rosenheck, R. and Krystal, J., 2002. Comorbidity Of Alcoholism And Psychiatric Disorders. [online] Pubs.niaaa.nih.gov. Available at: <https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh26-2/81-89.htm> [Accessed 26 October 2020].

6 Rossi, R., Conte, D. and Massironi, S., 2015. Diagnosis and treatment of nutritional deficiencies in alcoholic liver disease: Overview of available evidence and open issues. Digestive and Liver Disease, 47(10), pp.819-825.

7 Meda, S., Hawkins, K., Dager, A., Tennen, H., Khadka, S., Austad, C., Wood, R., Raskin, S., Fallahi, C. and Pearlson, G., 2018. Longitudinal Effects of Alcohol Consumption on the Hippocampus and Parahippocampus in College Students. Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging, 3(7), pp.610-617.

8 National Cancer Institute. n.d. Alcohol And Cancer Risk Fact Sheet. [online] Available at: <https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/alcohol/alcohol-fact-sheet> [Accessed 26 October 2020].

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